Ever Wonder? - What's that Stuff at the Bottom of Your Wine Glass?

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Have you ever taken that last sip of wine only to find a nasty surprise either at the bottom of your glass or in your mouth? Sediment! It can be a very unpleasant discovery. But, luckily, it’s nothing to be worried about.

Sediment is a natural bi-product of the wine making process.

Wines are made from the juice of grapes. And, the skins of the grapes. And the seeds. And sometimes the stems. So, there are actually a lot of solids that are involved in wine making. That’s why, in some cases, you get some ugly particles in your wine glass.

It doesn’t just happen with red wines. White wines are susceptible too.

There’s a lot of chemistry involved in for formation of various types of sediment in wine. But, keeping it simple, these solids in your glass are mostly filtered out at the winery and are just microscopic when they leave the winery in the bottle.

But, age and temperature then act upon these microscopic particles to form the stuff you see in your wine glass.

Next time, I’ll get into a bit more detail on this topic. But, for now, don’t worry. This sediment is not harmful to consume. Cheers!

Ever Wonder? Why Do Red Wines Make Your Mouth Dry But White Wines Don't?

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Have you ever taken a sip of red wine and noticed that your mouth feels dry or dusty? Almost that ‘cotton-mouth’ feel? Well, that is a sensation that is associated with red wine. Some red wines.

The dry sensation is due to the wine being astringent and its effect on the tissue in your mouth. Some people have also described the sensation as making their mouth pucker.

The culprits that causes this drying sensation in your mouth are actually chemical compounds (phenolics) that naturally occur in tannin. And in wine, these tannins come from the grape’s skin, the seeds and the stems.

Now, this is where we get to why red wines dry out your mouth but white wines don’t. White wines actually do contain low levels of tannin, but red wines contain a whole lot more tannin. That’s because the process used in making red wines involves leaving the grape skins, seeds and stems in the juice of the grape while in white wines, they are immediately removed.

But, not all red wines have the same levels of tannin. Pinot Noir is a varietal that has low to medium tannin. A Malbec is going to have medium tannin, while Merlot is going to have medium-high tannin. Then we get to the high tannin wines — Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Tannat. What about Cabernet Sauvignon? Well, although you think of a Cab as having high astringency, it’s typically in the medium-high category.

So, tannin just naturally gets introduced during the wine making process. But, there are ways to deal with highly tannic wines. And, we’ll get to those next time. Until then, “Cheers!”

Ever Wonder? - Does White Wine have to be Chilled?

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A few months back a friend of mine told me that, in the past, he really didn’t like white wine. He said white wines just didn’t have as much flavor as red wines. He preferred the flavors of a red wine.

But, on a wine tasting trip he went ahead and tried a Chardonnay. And he really liked it!

What was immediately obvious to him was that the Chardonnay was very lightly chilled as opposed to refrigerator temperature.

His experience with white wines had all been with very cold white wines. And the chill had taken all the flavor out of the wine.

This is indeed true. And, often the reason that people like their wines (including red wines) heavily chilled — to make them have less flavor.

So, the answer to the question is no, white doesn’t have to be chilled at all. But a light chill will allow you to experience the white wine as it was intended by the winemaker.

A rule-of-thumb that I’ve always used is that for white wine is that you should take the bottle out of a standard refrigerator (which is typically 35-40 degrees F) approximately 30 minutes before you want to serve it. That should leave a chill on it. Or, if you own a wine refrigerator, you probably already know that it should be set to approximately 50 degrees F for white wines.

But, as my friend found out, the serving temperature of wine generally is a matter of personal preference. Whatever your preference, enjoy!

Sparkling Wine - It Goes with Everything!

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As we continue through the holiday season, the question of ‘which wine to buy?’ is constantly on our minds. And, the answer in any situation can always be ‘Sparkling wine!”

Yes, sparking wines are maybe the most versatile wines out there. For brunch, sparking wine is an obvious answer. If you are having an early evening hors d'oeuvre party featuring anything from popcorn to caviar, sparking wine is the answer. A steak, chicken, pork or seafood dinner - they all work with sparkling wines. And, yes, desserts go great with sparkling wines.

By the way, try serving your sparkling wine in a white wine glass. After all, it’s a white wine. And a standard white wine glass will allow you to enjoy the sparkling wine while also allowing you to experience all the wonderful aromas that a flute precludes.

So, whether you are splurging on the real-deal Champagne from France, or simply opening a bottle of Cava, Prosecco or any other sparkling wine, know that it will go with everything this holiday season, and all year long. Cheers!

Learning From the Color of Your White Wine

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Last time we examined what can be learned from looking at a wine's color. Different colors can indicate the wine's body and its age.

White wines can vary from straw white to deep brown. And, these visual clues can immediately tell you something about the wine before ever tasting it.

Very light, pale colored white wines (some even have a slight greenish tint) are going to be very light in body, meaning they will have bright, fresh fruit flavors and have refreshing acidity (i.e., makes your mouth water after drinking). The fruit flavors and clear colors are usually preserved by aging in Stainless Steel tanks. Examples may include Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc and Albariño. These wines are meant to be consumed young and well chilled.

White wines that are more of a yellow to pale golden yellow color are more medium bodied. These wines tend to also have bright fruit flavors and good acidity. Examples include Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and un-oaked Chardonnay.

The full-bodied white wines will have boldest flavors and have deep golden colors. The deeper color comes from being aged in oak or on lees (a.k.a. sur lei). The lees are the dead yeast cells, grapeseeds, stems, pulp and tartrates (harmless tartaric acid crystals) that remaining in a barrel or tank during and after fermentation. An oaked Chardonnay is synonymous with full-bodied white wines but others include Sémillon, Viognier, Marsanne and oaked Sauvignon Blanc (a.k.a Fume Blanc).

If you come across a white wine that is orange or brown in color, you've likely found a wine that's been exposed to a lot of light or is simply heavily oxidized.  If you taste it (and you should as a learning experience), an oxidized wine will have a very nutty flavor.

Dark brown wines also include Sherry and Port that are intentionally oxidized.

So, next time you are raising a glass, take a look at it first. You can learn a lot from the color of your wine. Cheers!