What does chewy mean in wine? 9-28-2022

What the heck do wine writers mean when they describe wine with adjectives like “chewy” or “crunchy” or “meaty”? Aren’t those words descriptive of chocolate brownies, raw carrots, and T-bone steaks, not an alcoholic liquid? Continue reading “What does chewy mean in wine? 9-28-2022”

Fermentation vessels 9-21-2022

Winemakers have a choice of fermentation vessels—wood, stainless steel, and concrete. What is the difference between them? Continue reading “Fermentation vessels 9-21-2022”

Wine’s glass bottle blues 9-14-2022

Winemakers are among the most conscientious stewards of the environment. When vineyards pass down for generations and some of your creations will not be consumed for decades, thinking long term and big picture becomes part of your DNA.

Several studies show glass bottles account for the largest percentage of the wine industry’s greenhouse-gas emissions. Glass production involves a large amount of heat and energy. Bottles and packing material needed to protect bottles are heavy, driving up transportation costs both in dollars and pollution.

Many wine bottles are a one-use item. Then they go to landfills where they will last for thousands of years. There is some recycling, but less than one-third of glass is recycled in the United States. Europe does better with around 75 percent. In many cases, however, recycling does not mean melting to make new glass. Much of “recycled” glass is crushed and used to make paving material.

Schemes to buy back bottles and reuse them haven’t worked well so far. Even when people return bottles, cleaning the bottles—especially removing labels—is problematic.

If you ignore environmental concerns, there remains the problem of cost. Wine bottle costs continue to spiral, increasing 20 percent in the last two years. Bottles from China, a major supplier for the U.S., face a 25 percent tariff. Many of Europe’s bottles were made in Ukraine. The Russian invasion virtually eliminated that source.

Winemakers respond by exploring options. Cans are easier to recycle, but require significant energy to manufacture and limit aging to about 18 months. Bag-in-a-box wine is environmentally friendly and costs much less to transport, but does not work for aging wine. Plastic bottles and cartons like those used for milk and juice have a similar problem. The alternatives work for wine expected to be consumed young, but not when bottle age is essential. Barolo riserva, for instance, legally cannot be sold until four years of bottle aging and is best after 10 years.

Glass wine bottles won’t go away. Reusing bottles and recycling more glass must be in the future, along with alternative packaging.

Tasting notes:

• Bota Box Breeze Dry Rosé, California: Fresh red fruits, low-alcohol, low carbs. $20-23 for 3 liters, equivalent to $5-6 a 750 ml bottle. Also comes in 1.5 ml box, 500 ml carton (similar to a juice carton). Containers are 100% recyclable.

Last round: What do you call a Frenchman in sandals? Phillipe Phloppe. Wine time.

Pinot noir, chardonnay blends 8-31-2022

Many great wines are blends. Red Bordeaux is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and a smattering of other reds. Southern Rhône GSM wines are grenache, syrah, mourvèdre blends. In whites, sauvignon blanc and semillon enjoy a classic marriage. Continue reading “Pinot noir, chardonnay blends 8-31-2022”

Italian classification system 8-24-2022

Buying wine can be intimidating. How do you know if the wine is any good without buying a bottle and tasting it? Wine critics may help, but not all wines have a current score and you may find descriptors are just gobbledygook. Continue reading “Italian classification system 8-24-2022”

Sparkling stemware 8-17-2022

The proper Champagne or sparkling wine vessel is a pain in the glass. Wine professionals largely agree on what glass best presents the wine for tasting, but that is not the whole story.

In many ways, the glass depends on the occasion. If it is a celebration pour—a wedding or other large group—a narrow flute may be the best call. Flutes emphasize the column of bubbles, which accentuates the visual experience, which counts among folks who would not drink wine if not for the occasion. As a bonus, flutes don’t hold a large quantity—a nice consideration if you are buying the bubbly.

Flute downside: the top is so small it reduces your aroma and flavor experience. Smelling is 80% of wine appreciation. Of course, depending on the quality of the bubbly you bought, dampening taste could be a feature rather than a flaw.

Coupes are the other classic vessel. The famous legend is coupes are based on Marie Antoinette’s breast. Well, not likely, but whatever. The trouble with a coupe is the opposite of a flute: the opening is so wide aromas don’t concentrate and get lost. As with the flute, that can be a good thing depending on your banquet budget.

Image by brittaneu from Pixabay

OK, flutes flop and Marie-Antoinette-bosom-inspired glasses are a bust; what is the best glass for bubbly? It likely is a glass you already have—a white wine glass, a pinot noir tulip, a smaller red wine glass. You can go higher end from premium makers who sell sparkling-specific offerings. The key is they allow you to enjoy the bubbles and they concentrate the aromas so you can enjoy the brioche and almond notes of quality bubbly.

If you sip bottom shelf sparkling that really is carbonated white plonk, a jelly glass will work fine. If you sip superior—especially if you savor especially superior—consider a glass that allows for complete appreciation. If you can afford the pour, don’t poor-boy the glass. Or use that wineglass you use every day. It will work fine.

Tasting notes:

• Luretta Principessa Blanc de Blancs Brut, NV: Delicate, refined expression of pure chardonnay from Italy. $14-22 Link to my review

• Lanson Champagne Le Black Label Brut NV: Pleasantly complex, crisp; official champagne for The Championship, Wimbledon. $49-50 Link to my review

• Sokol Blosser Blossom Ridge Sparkling Rosé of Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon 2017: Pretty much checks all the boxes. $64-72 Link to my review

Last round: The best shoes for a pilot? Wing tips. Wine time.

Most searched Napa wines 8-10-2022

Napa is universally recognized as one of the world’s premier wine regions, and you pay to enjoy its exalted pours. How much and which wines get the most attention? Continue reading “Most searched Napa wines 8-10-2022”

Wine capsules 7-27-2022

What’s with the foil or plastic capsule at the top of a wine bottle covering the cork? More pointedly, what is the point of it in the 21st century? Continue reading “Wine capsules 7-27-2022”

Smaller wine containers 7-13-2022

You demanded wine options. Winemakers heard you and new options—some might call them marketing gimmicks—are being created as fast as they can be dreamed up. Continue reading “Smaller wine containers 7-13-2022”

Mendoza Argentina 6-29-2022

If you drink Argentinean wine—who doesn’t, given its high quality and excellent QPR (quality-to-price ratio)—you likely have seen Mendoza on the label. Continue reading “Mendoza Argentina 6-29-2022”