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Posts Tagged ‘#winewednesday’

The Super Bordeaux Rebels

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Bordeaux Rebels

Bordeaux, Hme of Cabernet Sauvignon

Bordeaux, Home of Cabernet Sauvignon and Super Bordeaux?

French wine laws are so strict that certain grape varieties are allowed to be grown in specific regions only. For example, Sauvignon Blanc is grown in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley but it’s not allowed in other wine growing regions. In Bordeaux, only six red grape varieties and three white ones  can be planted. The region’s famous blends contain only these combinations. This has been the case since 1935. But the times, they are a changin’, possibly.

There is a small trend among Bordeaux wine makers to mix things up a bit. Some “rebel” winemakers have started adding a bit of Syrah, the prominent grape of northern Rhone to their blends. Say it aint’ so?! The bold act has some referring to this new blend creation as a Super Bordeaux, reminiscent of a trend started in the early 1970s by Italian winemakers.


The Rise of the Super Tuscan

Italy also had rigid rules governing which wines could be blended in certain regions. The Denominazione di Origine Controllata (DOC) rule-making authorities prohibited the use of non-native or international varieties. Tired of the restrictions, as well as the resulting “lesser quality wine” that was often produced, a few bold winemakers starting breaking rank. They began adding non-Italian grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other international varieties to their Sangiovese. Of course, there was outrage.


Italian DOC Relaxes Rules

Super Tuscans Influencing Super Bordeaux Producers

Since these agitator winemakers were forbidden from labeling their new-style blends as Sangiovese due to the DOC rules, they had to create another name. The settled on Super Tuscan, which was a nod to the region but not the grape. However, these renegade winemakers got the last laugh. The wines became huge successes, scoring high marks with wine critics and accolades among the experts. As a result, the wines commanded lofty prices on the international markets.

In the end, the DOC relaxed and revised some the rules. Today, the use of international grape varieties is common practice in Italy.


The Rise of the Super Bordeaux

Will the rise of the Super Bordeaux become the latest trend out of Europe? Undeterred by longstanding blending rules, some Bordeaux producers are branching out by adding Syrah. According to Roger Morris of Palate Press, two top Bordeaux chateaux have already ventured where no Bordelais has dared to go. But will others follow?


Rhone producers stand to benefit if this truly becomes a trend. How amazing would it be to have a blend from some of the great Syrahs vineyards of northern Rhone? Cab Sauvingnon, Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot and Syrah in one bottle? Sounds like my kind of party.


Personally, I’m all for it if it leads to even greater tasting, more structured and longer-lived wines. Do you welcome a change in the ancient blends of Bordeaux or do you think it’s a quickly passing phase? Your comments are welcome.


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Wine Rating Systems

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Wine Rating Systems

Wine Rating Systems are Flawed

Wine Rating Systems are Flawed

I have a major issue with the current state of wine rating. I think the system is simply another way for corporate-owned magazines to generate advertising dollars. What better way to make a buck than to give a top rating to a wine, then sit back and wait for the winery to pour marketing dollars into print and Internet ads?

How many times have you seen a highly rated wine discussed in an article and then at the end of that same article, the ad pages are promoting this newly acquired rating? This system gives too much power to the magazines and wine rating experts. And it presents an opportunity for dishonesty, favoritism and kick backs.


A Flawed Scoring System

When we were all back in school, the grading system was based on a 100-point system. However, a student could actually score a 48/100 or totally hose the test and score 18/100. That is not the case with wine. I’ve researched several wine rating systems, both foreign and domestic; and all of them cease granting scores below 60. So, what’s the point of using 100? Plus, these scores do not accurately reflect the average wine drinker’s experience. I mean really. Who among us can distinguish between a 91-point wine and one that scored a 94? It’s a trick to get us to fork over more money for wine and to have the winery fork over more money for advertising.


Wine is Not a Competition

My other major issue with the wine rating systems is wine drinking is not a competition. Wine should be enjoyed with the pretense of point systems. I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to be given the opportunity to try both the 94-point, as well as the 91-point wine. Wouldn’t you? The more wine I get to taste, the better. However, it doesn’t mean I’m going to be impressed with the wine or agree with the rating.  On how many occasions have you been unimpressed by a 90-plus point wine that you drank? You’ll run out of fingers keeping count.


A Meaningful System

So if a system “must” to be used, I prefer a 5-point system, where “5” is the highest mark and “1” is the lowest. Using my 5-point system, a score of 5 equals an A, 4=B, 3=C, 2=D and 1=F. Compare this to a rating of 85 or 83. WTH does that mean? If you tasted a wine you absolutely hated, wouldn’t you be comfortable giving it an “F”? I would. An “F” clearly demonstrates your distaste for that bottle and you aren’t doing a disservice to anyone who reads your rating. They’d clearly know you thought the wine sucked.


My system is something everyone can get down with because it’s a far more meaningful rating system.  We grew up with this one. And one that doesn’t take itself too seriously by using scores like 88 or 89.


Days are Numbered

Although the Robert Parker’s of the world have saddled us with this 100-point wine rating system, I do believe its days are numbered. I believe as younger wine drinkers become more prevalent and marketing dollars are shifted to this demographic, they will view this as an antiquated system. They will shun it in favor of one that simply asks, “Would you buy this wine?” It doesn’t get any simpler than that.




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Tourism Changes Lives

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Cape Town's Iconic Table Mountain

Table Mountain in Cape Town

South African Tourism 

Due to the injustices from decades of Apartheid, many indigenous Africans are financially disadvantaged. In an effort to help right some of these wrongs, trust and initiatives have been instituted for various industries, including the wine industry.

Currently, there are approximately 160,000 individuals from socio-economically disadvantaged communities who are employed within the industry.  With each visit, additional employment opportunities open up.


African Winemakers

On my first visit to South Africa in 2004, I met a young man from one of the townships who was working toward a career as a winemaker. Today, around a dozen Africans, whose families suffered under Apartheid have risen to the role of winemaker.  Although that number is still quite small, it is a prime example of how tourism brings hope and changes lives. Tourism is an integral part of the South African economy, creating one in twelve jobs.


First African Female Winemaker

First African Female Winemaker

In the late 1990s, Ntsiki Biyela, from KwaZulu Natal enrolled in the University of Stellenbosch’s oenology program. Her road to becoming a winemaker was atypical and quite difficult. All of our classmates were white and classes were taught in Afrikaans,  the language of her oppressors. However, Ms. Biyela, a proud Zulu persevered. Upon graduation, she joined the staff at boutique wine producer Stellekaya, becoming the country’s first African female winemaker. Shortly thereafter, she was named Female Winemaker of the Year.

Stellekaya, located in the heart of the Cape Winelands produces seven red wines, many with a blend that includes Merlot. Stellekaya sources grapes from local producers. When the grapes arrive at the winery, Ms. Biyela has them undergo a cold maceration process designed to capture the fruit flavors. She then uses a traditional punch down method followed by a wooden basket press. After fermentation, the wine is aged in 100% French oak barrels.  You should taste the award-winning results for yourself.

South Africa dons many travelers’ Bucket Lists.  This is hardly surprising given its ideal climate, friendly people, great exchange rate to the US Dollar, awesome food scene, quality wines and beautiful wine regions.

When you visit Stellenbosch, (I suggest you do) stop in at the Stellekaya winery and see firsthand how your tourism dollars have helped lift this country. Then, head to dinner at Aubergine with its cosmopolitan menu and dazzling wine list. But that’s a discussion for another post.

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Wine Review Snapshot

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Wine Tasting Review

Sipping for Wine Reviews

Sipping for Wine Reviews & Education

As a wine educator, I am tasked with tasting wines on a frequent basis. Yes, break out the guitar and play a blues song for me. So, since I drink wine almost daily, I thought it was time again to share some tasting notes. For another wine review snapshot, check out my post on Warm Weather Wines ideal for fall.

What follows is a wine review snapshot of wines I’ve enjoyed recently.


My Wine Tastings Highlights

Domaine Peiriere by Paul Sapin


Pays d’Oc

Salad with orange slices

Salad with orange slices

I love blends. The Viognier in this blend gives it a bit of freshness and lemon zest, while the Chardonnay brings a great golden color that hints of oak. I wish more American Chardonnay producers would blend their white wines instead of making pure single variety wines.

This wine would be a nice accompaniment to a salad with mandarin orange slices or one with pieces of avocado. The acidity would compliment the citrus while matching nicely with the creaminess of the avocado.

It’s not a complicated wine but I’d drink it again as one of my simple, everyday wines. I believe it is priced under $10.


2011 Robert Craig Affinity

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This wine has great legs and a beautiful deep, purple color. On the nose, I got plum and blackberry fruit. Although the wine was young, I tasted masculine dark, plum and jam-like fruits. It also had surprisingly tamed tannins.

For a Napa Cab, the Robert Craig Affinity at $39.95 is priced quite reasonable. If you can buy two bottles, you should. Then, you can drink one now and lay one down for another 3 to 4 years. This is a wine that will taste even better in a few years.


2012 Ramey

Cabernet Sauvignon

Napa Valley

This Cabernet will set you back around $50, but it is worth every penny. It tastes like a Cab that cost twice as much. And that certainly is not a bad thing given the hefty prices most Napa Cabernets.

Its appearance is an intense dark red but the nose was a bit trickier. I smelled cherry and Thanksgiving spices, which only hastened my desire to taste it. So I gave into temptation and was rewarded with beautiful black cherry and raisin flavors. The tannins were as beautiful as the wine.

After drinking this wine, I was so intrigued that I went to the website to find out more about the winemaker. Dave Ramey developed an impressive resume working in the industry prior to opening his winery  with his wife Carla, in 1996. They have a tasting room in Healdsburg, which I will surely have to visit on my next trip to the region.

To learn more about their vineyards, click http://www.rameywine.com/vineyards/


Mumm Napa

Sparkling Wine Brut Prestige

Napa Valley

Champagne Classy Enough for a Wedding

A Sparking Wine Classy Enough for a Wedding

I could drink champagne and sparkling wine every single day of my life. I love it that much.  And this sparkling is a staple in my wine captain. A Napa stalwart, it is refreshing and has a creamy brioche finish typically only found in expensive French champagnes. It is medium bodied, with a citrus flavor and the perfect amount of acidity.

Mumm’s sparkling wine is classy enough to serve at a special occasion such as a wedding; yet it won’t break the bank. The complexity will have your guests thinking you spent far more. It’s a perfect food wine that typically retails for around $17.


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Wines for Fall

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Warm Weather Wines

Wild Horse Pinot Noir

Wild Horse Pinot Noir

Last week, I opened a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc to drink with grilled chicken. I never thought it was possible but I was too hot to drink a glass of wine. I know. Me!  I knew something was terribly wrong.  The brutal southern California heat wave was definitely getting the best of me.

So after recovering from my shock, I decided I would chill this white wine to a temperature of about 45°. I tried another sip after it was chilled and did manage to finish the glass.  But this got me thinking.

Checking the calendar, I saw that fall was arriving and hoped it would bring fall-like temperatures.  The warm weather may return given the shift in climate change, but I envision weather, during the next few months that will have me reaching for more red wines.

Over the past week, I have been on a mission to uncover red wines light enough to enjoy in the early evening as the day’s heat dissipates.  But I also want something elegant that can be enjoyed with a great dinner.  And Cabernet Sauvignon was not an option for two reasons.  First, it’s an obvious choice and kind of a cop out.  Second, it’s still too freaking hot to drink Cab! These three wines for fall were my top choices of the bottles I sampled. And yes, it was arduous!


Distinctive Topography

As you probably know, Santa Barbara County vintners make some outstanding wines.  Wild Horse Winery and Vineyards is one of a stars of this region. Their Unbridled Pinot Noir has grapes that were grown in the northernmost part of the appellation, Santa Maria Valley. This part of the Central Coast has a cool climate that sweeps in from an unusual east-west running traverse that brings in ocean breezes. These winds are followed by afternoon coastal fog that lingers throughout the night. This distinctive characteristic helps make for a long growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen slowly, in addition to increasing the hang time on the vine.

This 2012 drinks nicely. The tannins have softened already and the fruit isn’t too jammy given the high 14.5% alcohol by volume (ABV). There were slight floral notes on the nose, as well as black cherry. I tasted ripe cherry and baked plum tart. This wine is worthy as a dinner companion.


Two Oceans Converge


South African Pinot Noir

2012 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir

The quality of South African wines has improved dramatically. The Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir is an excellent example of the pride and investment that is leading the charge for quality wines throughout the country. Their 2012 Pinot Noir is produced in the Hermel-en-Aarde area, which is part of the Hermanus wine routeClick to see the map of the Hermanus Wine Route  Along the southern tip of Africa, the cold Atlantic Ocean waters converge with the warm waters of the Indian Ocean.  The ocean breezes help to create a perfect environment for growing Pinot Noir, as well as Chardonnay.

The garnet color along with the raspberry and red cherry aromas signal classic Pinot Noir. This bottle is an excellent choice to bring to a dinner party, especially if the hosts are red wine snobs. The reason? It is no typical New World Pinot Noir.

Upon tasting, I got a wonderful earthiness typically found in an aged, red Burgundian. I also tasted dark cherry and raspberry, the usual New World flavors; but there was also cranberry and a hint of spice. Given its youth, this Pinot had unexpected mellowed tannins. It is an age worthy wine with an elegant structure, retailing for $38.  (The price at Vintage Wines in San Diego.)

I was surprised to see the alcohol by volume  (ABV) was a whopping 14% given its production area, along the cool-climate Walker Bay region.  However, the wine did not present any pronounced alcohol heat.


Who Wants Italian?
Italian Wines

Indigenous Italian Wines

When you think about wines for fall you have to give a nod to Italian wines, as the two go hand-in-hand.  I am not a huge Italian wine fan but I enjoyed the 2011 Valpolicella Ripasso Monte Vozo.  Located in the Veneto wine region, a ripasso wine is a blend of indigenous grapes Corvina (70%), Rondinella (20%) and Molinara (10%).

The ripasso wine-making process reuses the partially dried grape skins and sediment of Amarone wine.  It then undergoes a secondary fermentation that brings in more flavor, body and structure.

The reason I don’t care for a lot of Italian wines is I find many of them to be ordinary, especially in the lower-end price point. These inexpensive wines usually lack structure and taste like watered down grape juice.  (Of course, I’m not referring to the outstanding Barolo, Montepulciano or Sangiovese wines.) I firmly believe time in the bottle has helped this wine to develop more concentration in flavor.  A bit of age has improved its fruit flavor by adding a bit of depth.

You should treat this wine as you would a rosé, meaning serve it chilled.  Doing so will help bring out more of the almond and dried cherry fruit flavors.

This is a backyard wine to serve as an icebreaker when entertaining friends in the afternoon. It coss around $19. I drank it with various hard and soft cheeses, salamis, dried fruit, and nuts.


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Chilean White Wines

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Cool-climate Wines

Chardonnay is the White Wine King

Chardonnay is the White Wine King

Chile winemakers focus on growing red  grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère, its signature grape. However, the cool morning fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean provides a heavenly location for growing great Chilean white wines.  If you enjoy bright, refreshingly crisp and aromatic white wines then look no further than Chile. Popular Chardonnay still reigns as the most-produced white wine. However, vintners  currently are growing world-class Sauvignon Blanc wines.


Many people compare Chile’s cool-climate wine regions to California, especially the Carneros region.  Chile is a very narrow country with the Pacific Ocean and the Andes both within close proximity to the wine regions.  The Humboldt Current, a cooling influence blowing from the Antarctica waters, brings with it fog and cloud cover. However, there is virtually no precipitation.


Primary Winegrowing Regions

In the Limarí Valley, cooling fog covers the valley each morning.  Then, in the afternoon the sunshine breaks through.   Chardonnay is the most widely planted grape in the Valley. Sauvignon Blanc ranks fourth behind Cabernet Sauvignon  and Syrah. The soils in this desert-like region are an unlikely limestone, which adds great minerality to the wines from this region.

The Casablanca Valley is another region  with influences from maritime breezes that make it an ideal growing region.  Located about 40 minutes north of Santiago,  producers here make wonderfully citrus peach wines with steely minerality. Approximately a third of the country’s Chardonnay is grown here.

The Curicó Valley has seen some terrific results with Sauvignon Blanc.  With soils of decomposed granite and sand, the bright whites now account for more than 12,000 acres of  vines.

Chilean wines are produced in ten primary varieties.  However, it’s the white wines, particularly Sauvingnon Blanc that have given a boost to Chile’s export markets.  With the dawn of global warming, many parts of the world including the United States, a key export partner, will see an increase in white wine drinking.  Chlean wines will surely fill many a glass on a warm afternoon.  And given the quality and increased investment in the country, the wines will surely become only better and better.

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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.



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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Torbreck Semillon

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2010 Torbreck Woodcutter’s Semillon Barossa Valley

Kangaroo Sign Barossa Valley

Australia’s Barossa Valley

We had a party and one of our friends reached for a bottle of wine to refill her glass.  The chilled bucket had several bottles.  As she picked out a bottle of white with a screw cap, I overheard her say, “No thanks.  I know that’s going to be a cheap wine.”  She returned the wine to the bucket and choose another one with a cork.

Unfortunately, there still are people who have the perception that screw-cap wines are cheap and inferior quality.  Wow. If only she knew the truth.

Australian Semillon producer Torbreck is an excellent example of a screw-cap wine that sells for around $16 and is a quality wine from a well-regarded winery.  Good luck finding an “old school” screw-cap wine where the grapes were hand-harvested, followed by a gentle whole-bunch press.  That’s the type of care Torbreck uses with their wines.

Hand Harvesting White Grapes

Hand Harvesting White Grapes

Torbreck’s Semillon would be easy to identify in a blind tasting due to the oily taste and texture, which is a classic characteristic of a Semillon.  Next, I got some lovely peach followed with citrus and limestone minerality.  But then I was lured in with a huge slug of acidity.  I think this wine would benefit from another year of aging but it was a welcome dinner companion with our red fish.




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